ECHO Seeks Proposals for Outdoor Art Installations | Live Culture

ECHO Seeks Proposals for Outdoor Art Installations

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Attendees at a meeting regarding the RFP for art installations - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • Attendees at a meeting regarding the RFP for art installations
This morning, about 30 people met at Echo Leahy Center for Lake Champlain for a presentation on the request for proposals issued by the science center and Burlington City Arts earlier this month.

The RFPs are for two public art projects, both individual components of the Energy Commons project. In turn that is part of the much larger ECHO Sustainability Park — one of six Public Investment Action Plan projects (large development or redevelopment projects) announced by Miro Weinberger in 2014. (Another was the Moran Plant redevelopment project.)

The first RFP is for a bike rack to replace the one currently situated in front of ECHO. The budget is $8,000 to $15,000. The second RFP is for a larger public art piece that would incorporate the main, north-facing entrance of the building. The budget for that project is $50,000 to $80,000.

The overall budget of the Energy Commons project, which includes renovations and changes to the grounds around the entrance, will be about $500,000 said the director of programs and exhibits Nina Ridhibhinyo after the meeting. That money will be privately fundraised. Another $500,000 from Tax Increment Financing will be used to upgrade the parking lot and improve stormwater runoff.

Ridhibhinyo emphasized that the money for the art installations is not coming from TIF funds. She said the organization hopes to raise the matching half-million by the end of this year, but could not disclose how much it has raised so far.

During the meeting, Burlington City Arts assistant director Sara Katz signed in attendees, but most of the speaking at Tuesday's meeting was left to  Ridhibhinyo and exhibit projects manager Jacob Mushlin. Ridhibhinyo first laid out the aesthetic goals and overall vision for the Energy Commons Project, which is to transform the narrow corridors to the north and east of the building into more inspiring and educational social spaces. (For more details, look here.)

Mushlin spoke about the logistics of the two RFPs for arty installations. For the bike rack, he said the organization is looking for something functional and beautiful that can accommodate at least 12 bikes, and allows the frame and at least one wheel to fit into a U-lock. The RFP also says the rack should be "made of sturdy materials that can last 20 years."

As for the larger project, Mushlin pushed attendees to think of a vertical wall use that, according to the RFP, "aspires to be an iconic and highly visible focal point for the Burlington Waterfront."

An audience member asked if the science center was attached to the iconic sturgeon floating in the circular cutout atop ECHO's entrance. Executive director Phelan Fretz said that, while the sturgeon was an intentional choice — it's an iconic endangered species in the area —  few people recognize its significance. In other words, he's not attached.

Another feature set to disappear in favor of a new façade: the "misting rocks" on either side of the entrance. But Mushlin emphasized that applicants were welcome to incorporate aqueous elements into their proposals.

After he finished reviewing the RFPs, Mushlin led attendees outside to view the area where the installations would reside. He noted that the myriad strings of lights visible through the large glass windows — the complex Lake Brite project — might not be a permanent feature.

Likewise, the spherical school-of-fish sculpture by Tyler Vendituoli, who was in attendance, is not permanent. The center has leased the piece from the artist since last summer. Over the phone later today, Ridhibhinyo said she's not sure if it will remain through the final design installation.

Dark clouds rolling in across the lake hurried the end of the meeting. And ECHO is rushing the RFP process. Proposals for the bike rack are due by July 17. A winner will be announced on August 14, and installation will commence in the fall of 2018.

Proposals for the larger installation are due by August 21. Finalists will be selected on August 28 and given a $2,000 honorarium to flesh out their designs, which will be due back in early October. The final contract will be awarded shortly after.

Mushlin said the accelerated pace for proposals has to do with the fact that the organization is working with the city's Community and Economic Development Office to make sure they stay on track for a fall 2018 installation.


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